What is the purpose of "How to Become a Writer"?
The purpose of "How to Become a Writer" is to humorously present the story of Francie's journey to becoming a writer. The amused tone is established in the first paragraph when the narrator tells the would-be writer who might read this story to "try to be something, anything, else," presenting "movie star" as a seemingly more viable option (and we know how many thousands of aspiring actors are currently waiting tables in L.A.). Francie only seems to become a writer by accident. She enters college as a child psychology major and ends up in a creative writing class because of a computer error. Through a series of rather silly situations—and in spite of everyone telling her that she has a "ridiculous" notion of plot—Francie sort of perseveres. She always returns to writing, as though she cannot help herself.
Certainly, neither the dream nor the journey to become a writer sounds very appealing. Perhaps it is simply too much pressure. For example, the narrator says, "You will read somewhere that all writing has to do with one's genitals. Don't dwell on this. It will make you nervous." The irony is that there really is not a set of steps that one can follow to then "become" a writer: the notion of a "how-to" on this subject is already a bit absurd. Just as Francie seems to become a writer against all odds, this story becomes a story against all odds as well. Its plot might seem ridiculous, like Francie's, but it parallels her rambling journey.
Francie, the speaker of Moore’s "How to Become a Writer," comments a number of times about how she has been told, by teachers and fellow students, that the plots of her stories are weak. Superficially, the same comment might be made about "How to Become a Writer." Therefore it is important to note that the story does indeed have a plot. One may perceive that the time lapse may be as much as seven or eight or more years, from high school to the period after college graduation. The period is that of the Vietnam War (1965–1975), for Francie describes a brother who has served in Vietnam, has been wounded, and has returned home. Despite the episodic nature of "How to Become a Writer," and despite its lack of direct narrative presentation, the story also dramatizes a conflict. On the one hand, Francie adheres to the view that writing is an irresistible outgrowth of either nature or affliction (writing is "a lot like having polio" [paragraph 41])—the idea being that a writer is born, not made (poeta nascitur, non fit). On the other hand, the "how to" title seems committed to the opposing view that writing is a learned skill or science.